By Jean DePlacido
---- — Katie Panneton is not afraid to try new things.
The winner of the 8th annual Paul J. Higgins Memorial Student-Athlete Scholarship, Panneton played soccer and competed in winter and spring track at Salem High, but is thinking of trying out for crew when she leaves for UMass Amherst in September.
“I’ve been thinking about taking a whole new path,” said Panneton, an outstanding student (13th in her graduating class with a 4.15 grade point average) who plans to major in engineering in college. “Some people I’ve talked to said they love crew. I need the discipline sports provides, and it sounds like something I’d really enjoy.”
By winning the $10,000 Higgins Scholarship, awarded annually to a Salem High senior by the family of former SHS athletic director and coach Paul Higgins, Panneton joined an elite class that includes former winners Tom Long, Dennis Murtagh, Susie Barnes, Melikke Van Alstyne, Sean Linehan, Brad Skeffington and Dasha Corpuz. The award is given to someone who displays not only hard work in the academic, athletic and community service fields, but is also an outstanding individual.
“I was very excited and pretty lucky to be selected,” said Panneton. “It’s such a wonderful scholarship, and my parents were pretty happy to see me get it.”
“We always look for someone who is a leader in the classroom and on the playing field, an overall great kid. Katie certainly fits that mold,” said Mark Higgins, Paul’s son. “Her character and effort are the traits my Dad admired in student-athletes. She’s a great choice for this scholarship.”
Panneton, who was a midfielder and defender for the Witches’ soccer team and threw both the shot put and discus in track, received the Higgins Scholarship at Salem High’s Senior Awards Banquet earlier this month. She also received the John and Grace Welch Scholarship, given to a Salem student going to UMass.
Salem High principal Dave Angeramo and athletic director Scott Connolly work closely with the Higgins family to find the right person each year.
“Katie Panneton exemplifies what a true student-athlete is all about,” said Angeramo. “She finished near the top of her class and was a three-sport captain. More importantly, she is humble and unselfish, doing whatever she could to help her classmates and the school.”
Panneton was a member of the National Honor Society and part of the Harvard Model Congress team. She coached a U8 girls’ soccer team this spring, helped with freshman orientation at Salem High, and also took part in auctions for various causes at the school.
“Katie is a driven student-athlete who continually strives for excellence in the classroom and on the playing fields,” said Connolly. “Katie is one of the best leaders to come out of Salem High School. The faculty and staff at Salem appreciate her efforts and great work ethic, but more importantly the positive example she has set for the underclassmen.”
Panneton said she loved her four years at Salem High and is excited about the challenges that lie ahead.
“Salem is so welcoming, from the administrators, coaches and teachers to the students,” said Panneton. “I had a lot of support from everybody, and I’m lucky to have a great group of friends. I’m excited about the new experiences I’ll have in college, meeting new people and trying new things.”